I had this really bad experience when I was home a couple of weeks ago. My stepfather and my brother were defending Kavanaugh, saying “If this happened to Professor Blasey Ford, why didn’t she tell her parents? Why didn’t she tell anyone?”
And I said, “I was sexually assaulted in college and I didn’t tell anybody, do you wanna know my story?”. . .
I felt emboldened to be able to tell the story because I’m not alone—and there are women all over the place telling their story. I would say there’s less shame.
Top-level Executive, 40+, Public Relations
(Keplinger et al, 2019)
Victims of sexual harassment often do not report it. Sexual harassment is frequently perpetrated by someone of higher status than the victims, so they fear there will be no remediation and in fact may risk even more harassment or retaliation. In addition, victims cite “fear of blame, disbelief, inaction, humiliation, ostracism, and damage to one’s career and reputation” as reasons they choose not to report (OJIN, 2019).
All of these reasons lead to very low rates of reporting of sexual harassment and formal reporting processes are used as a “last resort.” It is estimated that only between 11% and 25% of these victims file an official report (OJIN, 2019).
Fear of Retaliation
Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment is prohibited by the Illinois Human Rights Act. Retaliation is conduct intended to deter or dissuade a person from making a complaint, or filing a report of sexual harassment, or participating in an investigation conducted by the Illinois Department of Human Rights or other similar agency (IL Helpline, 2020).
“It is a civil rights violation for a person, or for two or more persons to conspire . . . to retaliate against a person because he or she has made a charge, filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this act or because he or she has requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use a reasonable accommodation as allowed by this Act” (Section 6-101, Illinois Human Rights Act).
Know Your Rights
Know your rights and responsibilities. If you are being sexually harassed, or you witness the harassment:
- Tell the person to stop.
- Document the incident. Keep records including witness names, telephone numbers, and addresses.
- Act promptly. Report the incident to management and notify police if criminal conduct is involved.
- Report the incident to the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (IL Helpline, 2020)
Learn how to Report Incidents
If you are the victim of unwelcome sexual harassment or if you witness or become aware of sexual harassment, you have the right to tell the person to stop and you have the right to report it. A complainant can be an employee or non-employee, customer or patron, and harassment can be perpetrated by an employee or non-employee.
There are several ways to report sexual harassment in the workplace. The individual can choose one or more of the following options.
Call the Illinois Helpline
877-236-7703, Monday through Friday, 8:30–5:00
The helpline phones are answered by The Chicago Lighthouse Call Center, which is under contract to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Callers are informed of options for reporting the harassment. A complaint can be made anonymously and all complaints remain confidential.
Callers can be provided with information about additional resources, including recommendations to pursue legal or counseling services. The helpline shall provide the means through which persons may report sexual harassment and discrimination in both private and public places of employment.
Report to a Superior on the Job
Report an allegation of sexual harassment confidentially to a manager, owner, corporate headquarters, human resources department, sexual harassment officer (if available), or any other internal reporting mechanism that may be available.
File a Charge with Illinois Human Rights
A charge may be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). A victim of sexual harassment can file a complaint within 300 days of the incident by submitting a Complainant Information Sheet to IDHR. After IDHR investigates the claim, the employee can file a lawsuit in civil court or file a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Workplace Transparency Act, 2019). There are five steps involved when processing a charge filed with IDHR:
- Optional mediation
- Findings and results, and
- Legal review
For more information regarding these steps, please see IDHR Filing a Charge at https://www2.illinois.gov/dhr/FilingaCharge/Pages/default.aspx.
To file a charge with the EEOC
For more information regarding the Illinois EEOC, (including additional offices), please see https://www.eeoc.gov/statistics/illinois.
File a Charge with EEOC
A charge can also be filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the incident. If the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe that there has been a violation of federal law, the IDHR shall adopt the EEOC’s determination of reasonable cause. The complainant then has the right, within 90 days after receipt of the notice, to either file his or her own complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission or commence a civil action in the appropriate circuit court or other appropriate court (WTA, 2019).
It used to be, “Well, why were you out at two in the morning? You must have just been doing something wrong.”
Now I think the public is shifting toward putting the attention where it should be, which is disgust and anger towards the perpetrator.
College professor, 30+
(Keplinger et al., 2019)
Remedies awarded to the victim of sexual harassment may include, but are not limited to: injunctive relief (a court orders a party to do something or to refrain from doing something), reinstatement of job and lost wages and benefits, and reasonable attorney’s fees and economic damages (WTA, 2019).